The human impulse to seek truth is like a plant’s impulse to grow towards the sun. It’s innate, part of our DNA. But what represents the sun? What are we instinctively drawn towards? It’s our true nature, the Self residing not in the sky, but in the soul.
However, the sun is obscured. We are taught to direct our truth-seeking impulse out there. The world, now more than ever, is full of paradoxes, assumptions, conflicting information, and outright lies. Externalising the truth-seeking impulse causes confusion and overwhelm.
Here, I’ll explain in detail the truth-seeking impulse and the distinction between narrative truths and spiritual truths. Understanding this helps direct your energy on the path of self-realisation.
Spiritual Truths vs. Narrative Truths
“Silence is the language of god, all else is poor translation.”Rumi
Spiritual truths are essential laws of nature. They transcend belief or opinion, they’re universally accessible and free from distortion. These truths emerge in pure awareness, in silence, beyond language and poor translations. They speak the language of the heart. They’re honest, simple, and resoundingly beautiful.
Narrative truths are a different story (pun intended). They’re an attempt to refine a narrative as concisely as possible to best match factual events or best describe reality. The archetype of the relentless detective is a great example. Truth-seeking in this respect involves scrutinising facts, questioning power, uncovering information, piecing together the puzzle.
Questions around narrative truth may include: what are the facts? Where’s the evidence? Do I have all the information available? Is this information distorted through agenda, deceit, manipulation? What are my sources?
Qualities of reason, logic and intellectual discernment help arrive at a narrative truth as close to factual reality as possible. But the truth isn’t black-or-white. Scientific theories are good examples. Even stories we take for granted, such as evolution and the Big Bang, are assumptions based on a selection of facts.
Multiple Narratives And Seeking Truth
The idea of a fixed, consensus truth in narrative is comforting. It’s uncomfortable to consider there are multiple perspectives and explanations, especially when one narrative particularly appeals. Only, in the Age of Information, we’re inundated with contradicting narratives at the click of a mouse.
The abundance of information is disorientating. Our framework of reality is constantly under question in a dizzying back-and-forth of impassioned pleas and plausible perspectives. We’re in information creek without a paddle, reaching out for something to hold.
In years-gone-by institutions, from the church to the government, to reputable news sources, created some sense of cohesion around narrative. For better or worse, the marketplace of reality-framing was monopolised. This has been the case for thousands of years, until now.
This isn’t bad, as it can ultimately lead to a greater truth. But the void is wide open, it’s vulnerable, and it’s being exploited. Social media feeds are at the mercy of biased algorithms and media manipulation and fake news. Real news is labelled fake news.
From Christopher Columbus “showing truth” to Natives by indoctrinating them in Christianity, to propaganda and media strategies used by Hitler (who believed the purpose of truth was to “serve our own right, always and unflinchingly”) and Stalin, if you want to find the source of power, look at who is attempting to control the narrative.
A Lost Sense of Reality
In Our Shared Reality is Fraying, Arie Kruglanski explores the effects of mistrust in information sources. “When we can no longer make sense of the world together, a crippling insecurity ensues,” he writes. “The internet inundates us with a barrage of conflicting advice about nutrition, exercise, religion, politics and sex. People develop anxiety and confusion about their purpose and direction.”
Kruglanski notes the lost sense of reality is a feature of psychosis. Indeed, my psychosis was sparked by a fracture in my narrative, the story about who I was and the nature of reality. After repeated failed attempts to find truth in narrative, I only became grounded through the direct experience of spiritual truth.
The desire to arrive at truth intellectually is deeply ingrained. Without exploring or questioning beliefs, we manipulate our reality to match. A subtle manipulation is confirmation bias, where we become blind to information outside our worldview. At its extreme, manipulation leads to attempts to oppress or use violence to force others to comply.
The fracturing of reality has created confusion and polarisation. Either side will defend its view vehemently. Land firmly on one side, and you’ll forever fight your corner, unable to understand why anyone else thinks differently. Land somewhere in the middle, and you’ll be overwhelmed by the battle of interpretations.
Paradoxical Thinking And Intellectual Truths
Shaping a healthy narrative worldview is worthwhile — I had to rebuild post-psychosis, by exposing myself to new information that expanded my map (for example, spiritual scripture, philosophy, or quantum theory). An accurate narrative truth must include as much information as possible, avoiding black-or-white thinking, and always be in flux, updating when necessary.
A study by Harvard University psychiatrist Albert Rothenberg revealed how the janusian process — actively conceiving multiple opposites or antitheses simultaneously — is a hallmark of history’s most gifted geniuses and revolutionary thinkers. Arriving at intellectual truths requires this paradoxical mindset.
On a micro level this is practised in meditation and contemplation. Awareness of your inner commentary reveals multiple paradoxes in the way you view yourself and the world. The thoughts that float through consciousness contradict themselves every second.
By holding conflicting views in the light of awareness, a closer truth emerges. In just the same way, it’s possible to cultivate this mindset towards global events.
Do this frequently and you’ll conclude that in narrative truth, there is no final resting place, no ultimate translation, no definitive answer. Allow your truth-seeking impulse to run wild in this direction and you’ll go around in circles — your ego’s survival relies on it.
If you don’t believe me, try it. Pick a hot topic and spend a day researching both sides of the argument. Is one side to be completely falsified and the other full of facts and watertight narratives? Or is there conflicting information? If you are completely unbiased in this process, is your final conclusion your best-educated guess, or 100% factual? Are you sure?
One of the allures of the QAnon movement is its use of cryptic messaging and mystery. It’s interactive — it encourages followers to chase clues and do their own research. This is ingenious, because it hijacks the truth-seeking impulse, provokes the detective archetype within, and creates a sense of co-collaboration.
Who doesn’t want to uncover fundamental truths? Who doesn’t want to discover the narrative thread that leads to a final conclusion?
Projecting The Religious Impulse
The constant feeling of searching for something is defined by Jung as the religious impulse, an instinct within the psyche to connect to the sacred. Without looking within, this sacred yearning is projected onto the external — be it romance, work, material things, ideologies, sports, politics, or religion.
Any individual, group or institution claiming to be the source of truth magnetises the religious impulse in a power-play that creates dependency. Because it’s an innate yearning, the sacred seed will gravitate to any source claiming to be the sun. Can you see how this manipulates your truth-seeking impulse?
This duplicity is symbolised by the word esoteric. It commonly defines secret knowledge only accessible to a few. Elusiveness and secrecy make truth feel inaccessible, a members-only club that you have to devote yourself to be allowed in. It’s the hallmark of truth-monopoly.
Yet there’s another definition. The source of eso in Greek means within or inner. An esoteric religion is a religion that empowers the individual by showing them universal truths are available and verifiable through self-discovery. Its opposite, exo, means without or outer.
Only the exoteric can be used to control because only narrative truths can be manipulated.
Manipulation, Power, And The Exoteric
The default tendency to search for truth in the exoteric is the result of thousands of years of conditioning. No doubt amplified by the 12th century’s Holy Inquisition, a violent movement silencing anyone who denied or doubted the doctrine of Christianity. Anyone seeking spiritual truths esoterically (inner experiences of god) instead of blind faith in a narrative truth was deemed heretic, and ostracized at best, tortured and killed at worst.
Can you see the link? Although the power of the church has reduced over the years, this misdirection has never gone away. The same mindset applies to education, governments, science, organisations, political ideologies. Whatever the source, the result leads us away from discovering spiritual truths within.
What makes matters more confusing is narratives often masquerade as spiritual truths. There’s an overlap in terminology, which is one of the reasons they’re so effective. They provide just enough to tap into the innate yearning for truth. This used to be exclusively religious doctrine, but it has evolved.
The rhetoric of Trumpism and QAnon displays this tendency. The Q conspiracy talks of the “Great Awakening,” with “imminent truths” about to be revealed. Trump’s repetition of voter fraud without evidence is the epitome of a guru’s secret knowledge — albeit through mysterious, elusive symbols.
The Atlantic even referred to QAnon as “not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion.” These images are powerful because they are archetypal — they speak the language of the unconscious. With no outlet to project the soul, the meaning is found in the narrative of truth.
Even the idea of a deep state could be a projection for the desire to discover universal truths that reside below the surface of the psyche, in the unconscious “deep state” of mind.
Satya And The Nature Of Reality
So, let’s return to spiritual truths. What does it mean to redirect the truth-seeking impulse? How to seek truth in the direction of the sun? In Vedic philosophy, satchitananda describes the nature of ultimate reality, Brahman. One translation of sat-chit-ananda is truth, consciousness, bliss. The Vedas, then, pinpoint truth as part of the fabric of existence.
The Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali, written around 2,000 years ago, lists satya (truth) as one of the five Yamas, which are essentially ethical rules and disciplines. The Yamas aren’t religious rules or demands. They are instructions. Patanjali, along with many other great sages, point seekers to their true nature.
Satya isn’t an intellectual agreement but a direct experience that arises during meditation and expanded states of awareness. There’s a beautiful harmony between inner-truth and outer-truth. Connect to your true nature, to satya, and your eye of discernment pierces through distortions in the outer world.
The path of self-enquiry is one of openness, curiosity. Is this process easy? Absolutely not. It’s no coincidence Yama is the Hindu deity of death. Letting go of a narrative often feels like a mini-death, like reaching out for something to hold, only for it to disappear.
The direct experience of truth deconstructs all mistruths, including ego attachments and beliefs. Over time, the feelings narratives provide — security, belonging, truth — mature within, in an unconditional space, free from external attachments.
Within this space is room for calm, clarity, simplicity, and even bliss.
Know What You’re Seeking
If you’re looking for existential or spiritual truths, enquire earnestly through meditation and self-enquiry. If you’re looking for narrative truths, remain equanimous, gather as much information as you can, contemplate, use reason and logic, and be vigilant of your ego.
Freeing yourself from attempts to feel or experience spiritual truths in narrative form doesn’t make you passive, it makes you wise. You don’t need anything from the narrative. This gives you an advantage. You view it with balance.
You are no longer trying to control the world, but allowing your state of being to influence it. You can arrive at narrative truths with reason and logic, and when facing opposing views, gently explain your perspective and wish to understand others, without being reactive or defensive.
Get to know your impulse for truth. Where does it originate? What does it want to connect to? Meditate on this. Contemplate this. Know the deeper cause of the impulse towards truth won’t be satiated in narrative. This gives you breathing space.
Rejoice! You can give up the futile search. You’ve found the sun. Now grow towards it.